Chief scientist blasts climate change sceptics

The government’s chief scientific adviser has told Farmers Weekly that farmers should be convinced that global warming is a reality.

John Beddington condemned climate scientists who refuse to accept that climate change is happening as all the evidence points towards climate change in a number of forms.

“I would completely disagree with those that dispute climate change and say ‘look at the evidence’,” said Prof Beddington.

“If one looks at the decades since people started taking records, the first decade of the 21st century was the warmest on record.

“All the trends point to global warming, an increase in the level of sea level, the arctic ice is melting, but you are also seeing as it were common sense things.”

Prof Beddington cited two pieces of recent evidence which he said were “particularly dramatic”.

Firstly, evidence collected by the insurance company Munich Re, which looked at disasters between 1980 and 2010, showed that disasters which came from a geological basis, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, have had no trend.

However, all the disasters that are determined by climate, such as floods, droughts and storms, have all shown a “dramatic increase” over the last 30 years, said Prof Beddington.

“That’s not scientists, that’s a hard-bitten insurance company making those assessments,” he added.

Secondly, a recent graph on the US state of Texas, a major contributor to US agriculture, shows a dramatic change in recent years in the historical relationship between annual rainfall and temperature.

“In 2011, the average temperatures were in the high 80s (F) and the rainfall was the lowest ever, but now it’s right off the scale,” said Prof Beddington.

The frequency of extreme weather events is increasing and that is to be expected from the climate change analysis, said Prof Beddington.

“You can point to the floods in Pakistan and Australia, the enormous heatwave we had last year in eastern Russia and eastern Europe,” added Prof Beddington.

“All of these events are happening with increasing frequency and that’s exactly what you would predict from the climate models.”

Prof Beddington said ongoing changes in the climate of the Arctic included rising temperatures and the decrease in loss of sea ice.

“One would expect the Arctic to be more sensitive to climate models, because of the geography in the magnetic poles of the earth,” added Prof Beddington

The whole point about the climate models is that weather events are going to become more extreme, said Prof Beddington.

“You will get big storms, intensity of rainfall and so you’ll have floods, but you’ll also have droughts and that’s pretty much what we are observing.”

* Read exclusively about Sir John’s views on climate change, as well as other current hot farming topics of discussion, including GM crops and the badger cull, only in this week’s Farmers Weekly, out Friday 13 April.

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